Last weekend, barely ahead of this season’s first big snowfall, I brought in the last of the ash, beech, ironwood, and maple logs that I’d been tossing into heaps throughout our woods all year. One wheelbarrow load at a time, those heaps became orderly stacks near the house, where the logs will continue to dry for use next year and maybe the year after that.
The wood we burn in our fireplace comes almost entirely from trees that come down on their own. I cut the fallen trees into fireplace-length pieces, then split those pieces into cord wood. I rarely fell trees, and never healthy trees or big ones. When I see a big tree that needs to come down, I remember D.H. Lawrence’s vivid story “The Fox” and, not wishing to end up like Jill Bannon, I call a professional to do the job. I get to work with my chain saw only when the tree is safely on the ground
Vermonters often say that firewood heats you several times, not just when it’s burned. When you cut and split your own wood and haul it uphill in wheelbarrows, you’re apt to shed your jacket just minutes into a chilly day’s work. Even if you buy cord wood and have it delivered to your driveway, you can work up quite a sweat just stacking it.
Firewood can cool you, too, I’ve learned. We just burned the last of the wood that I cut and split a couple of years ago in a rage at a relative. Rather than pick up the phone or fire off a furious email, I stomped into the woods with my chainsaw and splitting axe. At the end of the day, instead of an aching heart and a severed attachment to someone I love, I had a cooler head and a gigantic heap of firewood to keep our home warm even on Vermont’s coldest winter days.